Deliver Us From Evil, film review: Silly plot but Eric Bana's performance is in deadly earnest

2.00

(15) Scott Derrickson, 118 mins Starring: Eric Bana, Olivia Munn, Edgar Ramirez

Deliver Us from Evil is an unholy mishmash of hardboiled cop thriller, Exorcist/Omen-style horror hokum and, most bizarrely, Jim Morrison-inspired psychedelia.

The redoubtable Eric Bana plays New York cop Ralph Sarchie with an intensity that rekindles memories of the Sidney Lumet films of the 1970s. The film itself may be silly in the extreme but his performance is in deadly earnest.

Sarchie, who has paranormal powers, joins forces with a laidback, hard-drinking Spanish priest, Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez), who looks like Morrison. The frequent use of Doors music on the soundtrack suggests the resemblance isn't accidental.

The director Scott Derrickson seems uncertain as to whether he is making an exploitation pic intended to give audiences a few fairground-style thrills and frights, or a William Friedkin-style meditation on the nature of evil.

Individual scenes are staged with ghoulish energy. The final-reel exorcism provides all the ectoplasm, eyeball-rolling, contorting and funny voices you could possibly hope for. A sequence in a zoo using black-and-white surveillance footage is likewise chilling.

Ostensibly based on a true story, Deliver Us from Evil would, nonetheless, surely have benefited from a little more understatement and a little less hysteria.

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